Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Reviving a Dell Dimension E521

LOL - I haven't posted anything in LITERALLY a decade... 

I recently became nostalgic while working on an old PC which made me think of this blog I created so long ago. I am reviving a Dell Dimension E521 that I got from a friend many years ago and subsequently used as a Windows Home Server for several years. I thought it would be fun to breath some life into it with a couple hardware upgrades and installing a lightweight Linux distribution.  I could then use it as a backup-backup-backup home computer for simple stuff like browsing and streaming.

Actions taken: 

  • Removed: 10 pounds of dust and detritus 
  • Removed: (1) Spinning hard drive (details tbd) 
  • Replaced with: (1) Samsung 840 Series 2.5 inch 120GB SATA III internal Solid State Drive (SSD) MZ-7TD120BW (for Lubuntu) 
  • Removed: (1) Western Digital WD Green WD10EADS 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive Bare Drive (put it in my main rig) 
  • Left in place: (1)Western Digital WD Green WD10EADS 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive Bare Drive (for Data) 
  • Left in place: (1)PC Power & Cooling Silencer PPCS500D 500W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Power Supply.
  • Removed: (1)AMD Athlon 64X2 3800+ 2.0 GHz Socket AM2 65W 
  • Replaced with: (1)AMD CPU Athlon 64X2 6000+ 3.0GHz Socket AM2 ADA6000IAA6CZ 89W ($9 on ebay!) 
  • Added: (1)EVGA 01G-P3-1556-KR GeForce GTX 550 Ti (Fermi) FPB 1GB 192-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card (from a pile of retired hardware) 
  • Borrowed: (1) Backplate from EVGA GeForce 9800 GT DirectX 10 512-P3-N973-TR 512MB 256-Bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card 
  • Added: (2) Sticks of RAM for a whopping total of 4GB (details tbd) 
  • Added: (1) Case fan (from pile of retired hardware; rear exhaust) 
  • Left in place: (1)CD-ROM (details tbd) 
  • Left in place: (1)Floppy (details tbd) 

Yes, a GeForce GTX 550 Ti will  j-u-u-u-u-u-st  fit inside the case. 

You may recall that the Dell Dimension E521 is a BTX form factor and contains a large aluminum heat sink with a fan mounted in plastic shroud to manage CPU and case heat. Space is already tight and the cpu-heat-sink-fan-shroud-thingy makes it even tighter. Two things worked to my advantage to be able to install the the GeForce GTX 550 Ti. 

First, there was already an upgraded power supply. I installed it when I commissioned the Dell as 24/7 Windows Home Server. That power supply provides 500W and is quiet and efficient. It also provides two 6-pin PCI Express auxiliary power connectors for graphics cards. This card needs one of those power connectors so that worked out well. 

Second, I was able to easily "modify" the card to fit into the case. I'm not talking hacksaws and Dremels, but something more elegant. The problem is that the BTX standard puts the PCI-E slot close to the CPU socket as part of it's thermal management layout. That was fine in 2007 but graphics cards got fat and power hungry since then. 

The first thing I did was remove the plastic shroud surrounding the top of the GTX 550 Ti. That bought me the space I needed to clear the heat sink/shroud when installing the card. The GeForce GTX 550 Ti uses one heat-sink with one fan and with the plastic shroud gone they clear the large heat sink/fan/shroud thingy. It's also fortunate that, even with the gpu fan sitting on top of the gpu heat-sink, it still cleared the chip-set heat-sink on the motherboard (Northbridge maybe?) 

The next problem was how to convert this 2-slot GeForce GTX 550 Ti into a 1-slot GeForce GTX 550 Ti. This is required because the PCI Express x16 connector in the Dell is the top-most PCI-E connector on the motherboard but the card slot area on the back of the case provides only 1 exit slot. The case would need one more card opening. So as is, the GTX 550 Ti is not compatible with the opening. To address this, I replaced the original 2-slot bracket on the GeForce GTX 550 Ti with a one-slot bracket from a retired GeForce 9800 GT. These cards have 2 DVI out in the same location and the round port for S-Video on the GeForce 9800 GT aligns with the location of the mini-HDMI out on the GTX 550 Ti. Close enough *and* it worked! 

                                     GTX 550 Ti                       9800 GT
                                        bracket                          bracket

After some compressed air and fresh Arctic Silver 5 on the heat-sink, it's humming along. It's been running Folding@Home at Full Power since last night (CPU is Folding at full speed. GPU Folding is on). After running for a few minutes the thermal paste flowed and the heat sink settled into place keeping the CPU right at it's maximum of 63 C.

Monday, December 7, 2009


Technoviking does not dance to the Music
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The Music dances to Technoviking

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Nvidia 9800 GT in 2-Way SLI

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I just finished installing these in 2-Way SLI. Nice and smoooooth...

Gah! Mah heart a splode!!!1!1!11!!elevens!!!

I just came across this ad at Barron's. It gave me a LOL attack.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Phenom II X4 940 installed in an Asus M2N32 SLI Deluxe Wi-Fi Motherboard? Yes...

1. Upgraded BIOS to 2205
2. System refused to boot
3. Pulled out hair for 1.5 days.
4. Cursed self for bricking the motherboard.
5. Realized that SATA RAID got turned off in BIOS
6. Turned SATA RAID back on in BIOS
7. System booted up... Celebrate
8. Installed Phenom II X4 940 with HSF
9. Freaked out when new CPU was showing mid to upper 60 C at idle
10. Realized motherboard CPU temp sensor is not very accurate
11. Downloaded and installed Core Temp to get temps directly from the CPU
12. Checked temp again and Core Temp showed from 40's C (idle) to 50's C (load)
13. Frag away

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I'm on a Bike!

I just purchased a Trek 7100. It should be ready for pickup this week. I can't wait! Here's a picture so you can be jealous...

Hopefully, I will never be one of these guys...

Or this bear...

Update!  Summer of 2014 - I had a little accident which strongly resembled the crash in the fifth picture above.  Slammed into the handle-bars and pavement.  Helmets DO work!  I suffered zero brain damage.  Also, I experienced absolutely no brain damage.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

SoundMAX HD Audio hack - Dell OptiPlex 755

I was recently trying to record some internet radio at work using Audacity. I say trying because it would not capture the audio despite my mucking with every possible setting. There was simply no option to record "What you hear" or "Stereo Mix". These were options I was accustomed to seeing on my home machine so why were they missing? Was my work PC somehow locked down?

Countless Google searches later I came across a posting in a tech forum where someone figured out that the feature was actually still available -- it's just disabled. Most audio drivers are built to do everything. It's less expensive to have a do-it-all driver with features disabled in a config file than to design a driver from scratch with limited features. As a result, many of the commodity PCs with onboard audio have their "Stereo Mix" feature disabled. They assume you are going to steal audio streams; how nice of them.

We can change the situation. We just need to edit a config file and reboot. The process is generally the same for any AnalogDevices-based audio chipset...

1. Go to your PC manufacturers web site and download the audio driver that shipped with your machine.

2. Be careful to get the correct driver for your current OS. For example, your PC may have shipped from the manufacturer with Windows XP but maybe now it has Windows Vista. Get the correct one.

3. Save this driver and unzip the contents somewhere you'll remember.

4. Go to the folder where you unzipped the driver contents. Drill down to C:\...i386\SMAXWDM\W2K_XP or whatever the path is for your driver.

5. Look for a file called ADIHDAUD.inf and make a backup copy of it. I called mine "" so I know that it is the original file. This is insurance in case we make a mistake in our upcoming edits.

6. Open ADIHDAUD.inf in Notepad. Time to make some changes.

7. On line 303 I made a change
before: HKR,AD1983\\Disable, OutR, 1, 01
after : HKR,AD1983\\Disable, OutR, 1, 00

8. On line 304 I made a change
before: HKR,AD1983\\Disable, MonR, 1, 01
after : HKR,AD1983\\Disable, MonR, 1, 00

9. On line 352 I made a change
before: HKR,AD1984\\Disable, MonR, 1, 01
after : HKR,AD1984\\Disable, MonR, 1, 00

10. By changing that 01 to a 00 you are now going to have an install that includes the Stereo Mix feature.

11. Click Save (not Save As) to keep the edits we just made. ADIHDAUD.inf should now be updated

12. Uninstall the current SoundMAX Audio driver. When you reboot Windows will say that it found new hardware (sound card) and try to start the driver install process. Just click Cancel.

13. Install the driver you downloaded and unzipped from step 3. It's usually a setup.exe file

14. Reboot to make sure the modified install worked

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Friday, June 6, 2008

New Car

I bought a new car. 2008 Nissan Altima Hybrid. Before you even bother to comment :

-Yes, I know there are other midsize cars which are strictly internal combustion that get comparable fuel economy.

-Yes, I know there are other hybrid vehicles (e.g Prius) that get better fuel economy albeit in a different size classification.

-Yes, I am well aware that my car will not be spewing rainbows and unicorns and happiness...

-Yes, I know that over the life of the car there is generally no major economic advantage to the Altima Hybrid versus a regular Altima
(hybrid premium$ - hybrid tax credit$ - fuel savings$) ≈ regular Altima$

However, if the cars essentially cost the same why not drive one that produces far less carbon dioxide and will scare the crap out of people in mall parking lots because they can't hear you coming?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

AutoIt v3

AutoIt v3 is a freeware scripting language for Windows GUI and general scripting. I get tired of keystroking Win+R, CMD, IPCONFIG to check IP addresses so I thought this would be a good candidate for a script. I wrote one compiled it into an EXE. It shows the IP addresses for up to 4 adapters on the local machine...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Useful (Free) Things #1

I've installed and used all of the following software. I found them all to be stable and fairly easy to use. Worst-case, I had to actually read the software's documentation to get things working.

Cobian Backup - Effective, option-laden Backup software for XP and Vista

FreeNAS - use retired PCs as Network Attached Storage devices

RipIt4Me - DVD file ripper

Handbrake - Shrink your ripped DVD files

CDEx - Extract CD Audio to WAV or MP3

Audacity - Capture audio output (any audio output; wink, wink, nudge, nudge)

LAME Encoder - Useful with several audio applications; use with Audacity to compress your captured audio to MP3

JasperReports - Open Source reporting engine.
·XML based report creation

iReports - Open Source graphical report designer for JasperReports
·GUI report creation if your not an XML jockey

AusLogic Disk Defrag - XP and Vista compatible disk defragger

JAP - Anonymity and privacy while online

SwitchProxy - Firefox plugin to automatically switch between direct and proxy connect modes; great to use with JAP for quick switching between normal and anonymous browsing

McAfee SiteAdvisor - Free Firefox plug-in by McAfee

Adblock Plus - block annoying ads in Firefox

FlashBlock - block annoying Flash-based ads in Firefox

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Hawaii Chair

If you can sit... you can get fit.

Monday, December 24, 2007

New Content !

Wickedosity... don't bother looking it up. I'm the definition.

Friday, December 21, 2007


You're doing it wrong! Move!

Hello World!

Hello World!